Light Asylum: Dark-Wave Duo Bring Unholy Mood Pieces to the Dance Floor

Shannon Funchess / Photo by Emily Hope
Shannon Funchess / Photo by Emily Hope
Chris Martins WRITTEN BY
Chris Martins

Who: Brooklyn's Light Asylum are as prone to moments of militancy as bouts of beauty. The project pairs the production skills of Bruno Coviello, 32, and the commanding contralto of Shannon Funchess, 40, whose high energy and moody mastery of the mic have earned her comparisons to both Grace Jones and Ian Curtis. After coming together in 2009, the duo shot through the local scene like conjoined meteors, making such an impact with their live show that James Murphy once said the mere idea of having time to produce for them was reason enough to bust up LCD Soundsystem.

Sounds Like: Today's electronic futurism hacked by an older era's dystopic visions. Funchess came up in 1980s Seattle, where electronic body music and the funk-punk movements of the era merged with the prevalent DIY punk and indie culture. Upon relocating to New York City in 2001, she began collaborating with artists such as TV on the Radio, Telepathe, and Ford & Lopatin, and spent five years as the female lead in !!!. The connection is obvious to Funchess: "They all have a groove. It's not about standing around looking jaded. The focus is movement. It's about getting up in the pit or down on the dance floor."

Cross Purposes: Like the video for 2011's "Dark Allies," which features a nude nun, the duo's self-titled debut LP is chock full of blasphemous imagery. But some things are still sacred for Funchess, who grew up in Seattle as a Southern Baptist. "Church felt really fake to me as a kid, but I loved choir," she says. "There was this thing called getting happy, where people would roll on the floor and convulse to the music. I thought, 'Singing can make people do that? I wanna sing!'"

Seismic Shifts: A former Air Force brat (conceived in Hawaii, born in Okinawa), Funchess was content to stay put in Washington state. Until, that is, an earthquake pushed her out of her apartment. "It was large enough to crumble façades of buildings that flattened Econoline vans down to my ankles. I went from being asleep to having to fend for my life, and I realized that I could just die in this warehouse without ever knowing my potential as an artist. It was earth-shattering." Rim shot, please.

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